Last Thursday I participated in the Louisiana Osteoporosis Study, which is run by Tulane and gives participants a $25 gift card to Wal Mart and info about their bone density in exchange for a little bit of blood, a survey, and a few minutes of laying on a DEXA machine. Sounds pretty good, right? The study is looking for genetic links to osteoporosis.
What I found out is this: I have a crooked skeleton (seriously check out that picture again it is super goofy lookin), really good grip strength, but not really good bone mineral density. In fact, some of my measurements were defined as osteopenia – a condition when bone mineral density is lower than normal, putting me at risk for development of osteoporosis later on.
…Wait WHAT?! This does not make sense: I participate in weight bearing exercise nearly every single day, I am always outside making my vitamin D, I eat yogurt and drink fortified almond milk like it’s going out of style…WHAT THE HECK? The nurse with the study, who handles all of the participant interaction, told me that through all the hundreds of participants they see, only two girls in their twenties had adequate bone density. That made me feel better. Additionally, I have been doing some reading, and DEXA readings are often low for people with small bones. Hellooooo a 5’3″ girl with a small frame size (wrap your thumb and forefinger around your wrist – overlap = small frame, just touching = normal, not touching = large frame) has some itty bitty bones. **sigh of relief**
Bone density is a funny thing. Peak bone mass for women is reached around age 25, and after age 30 no matter how much calcium you can pack in, the number will never increase – you’re simply working to prevent bone loss. That’s why it is so crucially important for young women to get their calcium and vitamin D! Furthermore, bone formation is controlled hormonally and many studies have showed that the use of oral contraceptives can decrease bone mineral density. Betcha never knew that!
Nutrition and bone health FAQ:
Q: What are some good food sources of Vitamin D?
A: Just go outside in the sun. Some mushrooms are grown under special lights that cause them to produce vitamin D, but we really get the vitamin when the proper wavelengths of sunlight hit our skin. It is produced in the subcutaneous fat, so if you are anorexic or super fit and have extremely low bodyfat, you may have problems. Also if you don’t go outside you may have problems. Oral supplements are commonly used, though the dosage amounts vary widely. Many doctors will prescribe 1000IU twice daily.
Q: I don’t drink milk, how do I get calcium?
A: Non-dairy milks are almost all fortified with calcium nowadays. My almond milk has more calcium than dairy milk, and it’s delicious. Cheese has calcium, and a lot less lactose than milk (if lactose intolerance is your issue). Other than dairy products, leafy green vegetables, calcium-set tofu (read the nutrition label), sardines and anchovies with the bones, beans, and blackstrap molasses all contain calcium.
And a little skeleton-themed jam for your Monday: